Exploring Price and Non-Price Determinants of Trade Flows in the Largest Euro-Area Countries
34 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2015
Date Written: September 26, 2014
Since the mid-2000s standard price-competitiveness indicators for some European countries have been providing conflicting signals, particularly in Italy. Against a broad stability of the producer price (PPI)-based measure, the manufacturing unit labour cost (ULCM)-deflated indicator points to a major cumulated loss of competitiveness in Italy. We find that this discrepancy mostly reflects the divergence of ULCM and PPI trends in competitor countries while in Italy they have actually progressed hand in hand. Owing to the internationalization of production processes and to the subsequent fading representativeness of labour in respect of overall costs, seen to a different degree across countries, price-based indicators are arguably more appropriate than those based on ULCMs to assess external competitiveness and external performance. We provide empirical evidence that points in the same direction. In Italy ULC-based indicators play a less important role relative to price-deflated measures in explaining both export and import trends; this result does not hold for Germany and France. Moreover, a proxy for non-price competitiveness proves important in explaining Italian, German and, in particular, Spanish exports.
Keywords: price competitiveness, non-price competitiveness, unit labour costs, producer prices
JEL Classification: F14, F62
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation